It was a trade that nearly every armchair GM could have made, and nearly everyone within the cities of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Columbus, Ohio could have predicted. It just seemed way too simple to actually come true.
But then it did.
On Saturday morning, the Winnipeg Jets and the Columbus Blue Jackets teamed up on a blockbuster deal that sent Jets forwards Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic south to the Blue Jackets, in exchange for Pierre-Luc Dubois and a 2022 third-round draft pick.
A player drafted second overall in 2016 for a player drafted just one pick later in that same draft. And then thrown in was Roslovic, a former first round selection and local Columbus product, who had currently shifted to restricted free agent status and was holding out for a new contract thus far in 2020-21. To help seal the deal, Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen (a Finnish businessman) immediately signed the RFA to a two-year, $1.9 million contract upon word of the trade.
These sorts of deals are rare within the NHL: a star player for another star player. Why did it work out so well on Saturday?
According to the Blue Jackets newest top-line right winger, it’s more so because of things ‘not working out so well’ in Winnipeg.
“I don’t really know,” Laine said on why Winnipeg wasn’t the solution to his problems. “I just think maybe that it wasn’t the right fit for me and the team. They have a lot of depth and a lot of great players, so I think it was just the team’s time and my time to move on. They’ve got a Hell of a player in return too, which he will be a good player for the Jets. I just think it was time for us to move on.”
Despite Laine’s time as a Winnipeg Jet coming to a sudden close, the 22-year-old forward will continue to cherish his fond experiences within the organization and the city.
“I’m just going to leave it behind me and take all the great memories I had with this team and my teammates with me and move on,” he said. “I think it was a great place to play hockey. Everyone knows how passionate the fans are and how loud the building gets. So it was an awesome place to play hockey.”
But now looking ahead to a new chapter, the three-time 30-goal scorer is ready for a new opportunity with the Blue Jackets in Ohio.
“It’s awesome to be part of the Blue Jackets organization right now and I’m happy that they wanted me on board,” Laine said enthusiastically. “I couldn’t be more excited as is always with a new chapter, going to a new place, meeting new guys. I’m kind of scared but it will be fine. There are a bunch of guys that I know, and a couple Finnish guys too. I’m just super excited to meet everybody and get things going.”
Although the Blue Jackets will need to wait a number of days for Laine’s work Visa to be sorted out so he can cross the border, while also ensuring the youngster fulfills his mandatory COVID-19 quarantine, the team will not have to wait long for their newest signee.
“I’m really just excited about the opportunity,” Roslovic said. “It just makes it that much sweeter that it’s in Columbus. I’m super happy to be here. Obviously, I grew up here, living here and watching the team play. It’s definitely just an extra cherry on top.”
Roslovic, who grew up as a season ticket holder who sat behind the visiting team’s players box since the Blue Jackets arrived in the NHL some 20 years ago, knows just how exciting it is to play for the team and community to which he grew up within.
“We always kind of joked around about it,” he said. “The community and the guys on the team, I’m really familiar already. It’s just going to make things easier to transition. Getting a role here that I’m going to be able to really strive in and help the team. As you develop, you want to make the people around you better, make the team better, you want to do everything to get to that ultimate goal. I want to be a big part of it on this team.”
Despite not loudly voicing their displeasure with the Jets, both Laine and Roslovic did insinuate feelings of misuse over their careers in Manitoba, but as products of a good team, sacrifices had to be made.
“This is the business side of hockey and these things happen,” Laine said. “It’s kind of a sad day, but still, I’m really excited that I will have a new opportunity in Columbus and I will have friends and brothers for life with the Jets.”
And for Roslovic, a feeling of gratitude was certainly felt for the Jets organization and the opportunity he has been given to play in his hometown.
“I don’t think there was ever frustratiion with the Jets or with Winnipeg,” Roslovic said. “I have nothing but good things to say about them. I talked to my peers around the league and when you’re on a team that’s that good, there are sacrifices you need to make, and when you’re winning that many games, you’re usually willing. That’s the way I felt. Nothing bad to say. I don’t think there was ever not an opportunity. There are so many good players on that team. I hope nothing but the best for them.”
After having been selected No. 2 and No. 3 overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft behind only Toronto’s Auston Matthews, both Laine and Dubois have had some on-ice clashes. But despite all popular opinion, the two do not know each other very well, other than the few days they spent together leading up to the draft.
“Honestly not too much,” Laine said when asked how much he knew about Dubois. “Just after the combine we went to the Stanley Cup Final in San Jose and spent a little bit of time over there. Obviously, a bunch of media stuff at the draft, but he seems like a good guy. From the little bit of time I spent with him, he’s a funny guy, really good player. So the Jets will have a good player for hopefully a long time.”
With Pierre-Luc Dubois set to travel to Winnipeg Saturday evening on a private charter, the Jets will need to wait a little longer to see their new centreman in action. And until his Visa is approved the former Jets sniper Patrik Laine will continue to roam the city. Despite his broken relationship with coaches and management, Laine does, in fact, hope that he has left many fond memories in the hearts and minds of Winnipeg Jets fans for years to come.
“Well, hopefully, I’m remembered as a good guy,” Laine said sheepishly. “I’ve always tried to be myself and if somebody doesn’t like it, well, it’s too bad. Just being myself, I was always myself with the media, with the fans, on the ice. So hopefully, they will have good things to say about me. I always tried to be a good guy and a good teammate. So, hopefully, they’ll have some good memories of No. 29.”